FILE PHOTO: A boy walks on a prepared field in front of grain silos in the farming area of Chinhoyi
By Ed Cropley
HARARE (Reuters) - A white Zimbabwean farmer kicked off his property at gunpoint in June has been told he will be going home within days, the first signs of the post-Robert Mugabe government making good on promises to respect agricultural property rights.
Rob Smart, a 71-year-old farmer from the eastern district of Rusape, said he understood his case had been taken up by new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who heard of Smart's violent eviction while at an investment conference in Johannesburg.
"Apparently Mnangagwa saw that and flipped his lid," Smart told Reuters by telephone, saying new provincial minister of state Monica Mutsvangwa had assured him the eviction would be reversed.
"Our new governor is getting us back on the farm," he said.
According to media reports at the time, Smart and his family, including two small grandchildren, were kicked off their Lesbury farm along with scores of workers in early June by riot police armed with tear gas and AK-47 assault rifles.
"They came with guns and riot gear and tear gas - it wasn't just us, it was all our workers as well, the whole compound," Smart said. In all, the eviction would have hit the livelihood of as many as 5,000 people, he said.
"LAND REFORM IS OVER"
Reuters reported in September that Mnangagwa was plotting with the military, liberation war veterans and businessmen including current and former white farmers to take over from 93-year-old Mugabe.
In the latter half of his 37 years in power, Zimbabwe's economy collapsed, especially after the violent and chaotic seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms under the banner of post-colonial land reform.
Mugabe resigned last month in the wake of a de facto military coup, paving the way for Mnangagwa, who had been purged as his deputy only a week before, to take over as leader of the southern African nation.
War veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa, husband of Monica Mutsvangwa and now a special adviser to Mnangagwa, said Smart's treatment made clear the new administration was serious about restoring the rule of law and sanctity of property rights.
"Land reform is over. Now we want inclusiveness. All citizens who had a claim to land by birthright, we want them to feel they belong and we want them to build a new country because this economy is shattered," he told Reuters.
Smart said he was working with the local authorities in Rusare who were under orders to track down looted and stolen property to allow him and his staff to bring the farm back to production.
"We will have a Christmas with no decorations in a house that's a bit empty," Smart said. But mentally it's going to be a bloody nice one."
(Reporting by Ed Cropley; Editing by Andrew Heavens)